Posted on April 22, 2011, by JD Kathuria, under Featured Interview.
Geeta Nayyar, Principle Medical Officer at Vangent, Inc. and George Washington University Professor , forecasts where healthcare IT will be in the next 10 years and how social media relates to her work in the healthcare IT industry.
Please tell us a little bit about your background.
I always wanted to be a doctor. I was accepted to medical school straight from high school, through a six-year accelerated medical program and never stopped to seriously consider anything else. I’m fascinated by science and biology, but at the same time, am very much sociable and a “people” person. Becoming a physician seemed like the perfect fit for me. It was the marriage of both science and “people skills.” As a doctor, I was able to satisfy my intellectual interests in science and cultivate great relationships with my patients and their families. It has always been a rewarding profession for me personally.
Why healthcare IT, why not just stick to clinical?
Like many young physicians starting out, I wanted to change the world. I thought taking care of people was a way to do that. However, I slowly realized that the healthcare system was perhaps sicker than most of my patients. Too often I found myself spending more time helping my patients navigate the system rather than actually taking care of their illness. I realized that I could do more for my patients and others if I tried to affect the healthcare system from the outside using my perspective and knowledge of what happens on the front lines of care.
This inspiration led me to pursue an M.B.A. I felt I needed to broaden my knowledge of business, finance, and operations and apply those to healthcare. I did my M.B.A. part-time while I was a fellow in Rheumatology at George Washington University (GW). By day I saw patients, and by night I was a graduate student (with a beeper). This dual life is helped me connect the dots and embrace health IT.
While I was completing my M.B.A., our department was transitioning to an electronic medical record. I saw this as an opportunity to apply my clinical skills and business knowledge to improve efficiencies for both patients and providers. I became a physician champion for our system and helped customize our EMR, train other providers, and make the technology fit clinician and patient work flows.
The experience I had at GW shaped my vision for my future career. As Principal Medical Officer for Vangent I have the opportunity to solve some of the biggest problems federal agencies face in the healthcare arena, enabling me to make an impact on populations in a way I would never have been able to do as a clinician.
I haven’t completely given up practicing medicine all together. I still practice and teach part time at GW. Fortunately, I have been able to marry health IT with clinical practice and remain relevant to trends in the front lines of healthcare delivery. I plan to continue practicing for the foreseeable future.
Where do you see the future of healthcare IT in the next 10 years?
Right now, we are encouraging providers and patients to embrace health IT. We (in the industry) are all eager to tout its benefits and “force” it on the users of the healthcare system. I think this paradigm will shift in the next 10 years. In other words, we will see more physician and patient entrepreneurs inventing better health IT solutions than the technology industry.
Today’s physicians and patients are a tech savvy group of consumers. They use tablets, smart phones, Facebook, YouTube, and Twitter. All of these channels are intuitive and integrated into their daily routines. They will be more likely to develop their own apps rather than use one created by someone else. The same holds true for electronic records. I think we will see providers helping to shape and form customized systems for their specialty or patient population.
It’s clear that the trends in mobile health and wireless communication will continue to increase. Mobile health will incrementally become a bigger part of healthcare information sharing and consumer engagement. I’m already seeing this with my current patients and the doctors in training with whom I work. All of them have smart phones, regardless of socioeconomic background. Additionally, they all want my Twitter handle!
How do you use social media?
I’m a big believer in social media. It’s truly making the world smaller and more accessible. I use Twitter almost exclusively for professional communication as Vangent’s Principal Medical Officer. I comment and share articles, blogs, the latest trends in healthcare, healthcare IT etc… I use Twitter to constantly monitor trends, events, and other thought leaders and clients in the industry. I use LinkedIn as another medium to connect with people in the health IT space, post Twitter updates, and broaden my professional network.
I use Facebook on a more personal level to strengthen my relationships with professional and personal contacts, which often can overlap. Facebook is more about me and what I like to do, sharing with family and friends locally and internationally. Though my Facebook usage tends to be personal, I remain cognizant of my audience and the reputation I portray both from a personal and professional standpoint. In fact, I’ve actually met several people in the industry on Facebook first and then in real life. I’ve also had several students and other people in the industry find me through these channels when seeking a mentor, particularly women or minorities looking for advice on advancement or business opportunities in the industry. In this regard, it’s been very rewarding and has helped to broaden my network. I also use social media channels to communicate projects I am working on at Vangent and to highlight my speaking engagements and publications.
What does personal brand mean to you?
Personal brand is how you want others to perceive you, both online and offline. In other words, it’s your reputation. When thinking about my personal brand, I ask myself: What would someone say about me if I wasn’t in the room?
Part of creating your personal brand is consistency and authenticity in what you communicate versus random thoughts or statements. If someone meets me in real life but first “met” me on Twitter or Facebook, they shouldn’t be disappointed. Online, I project who I really am both professionally and personally. If you meet me on any one of the social media channels, you will learn that I’m passionate about healthcare and health technology, funny, approachable, active in the South Asian community, and very social (both online and off). I frequently connect people and like to know and share the latest healthcare trends and news.
The rise of social technologies has made branding personal and accessible to all. Today, a personal brand extends beyond your resume to include Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, blogs, media sites, and other online communities.
What is something most people don’t know about you?
Most people don’t think I’m very domesticated, but indeed I love to cook. I enjoy trying new recipes and spices, typically fusion foods like a blend of Indian and other Southeast Asian foods with Italian or French cuisine. I grew up in Florida and love anything that involves the water: swimming, water sports, and most recently, sailing. I’d like to someday soon own a boat.